Separated parents face paying fees if they cannot agree child support payments under major new legal changes, warn Bournemouth and Poole solicitors Coles Miller.
There is now greater pressure on separated couples to agree their payments as the outgoing Child Support Agency (CSA) is replaced by the new Child Maintenance Service (CMS).
Couples will have to go through a phone-based “gateway” system to see if payments can be agreed privately before their case goes before the CMS.
Existing CSA cases will be transferred to the CMS. Couples face the threat of fees if they cannot or will not reach agreement themselves.
A new payment structure - based on gross rather than net salaries - is being phased in.
“These changes have been a long time coming. Everyone has been talking about them but very few people understand what the full impact will be,” said Coles Miller Partner Emma Hamilton Cole, who leads the firm’s team of family solicitors in Bournemouth and Poole.
The authorities had initially been targeting larger families which - despite the number of children involved - had less complex circumstances, she added.
Under the old scheme, the non-resident parent’s payments were calculated in relation to their income net of tax, National Insurance and 75 per cent of pension contributions.
The amount of child maintenance payable was then calculated as a percentage of the net income figure:
- one child, 15 per cent
- two children 20 per cent
- three or more children, 25 per cent.
Payments would be reduced if the children had regularly stayed overnight - at least one night per week - with the non-resident parent.
But under the new rules, gross income is used instead of net income and the percentage calculations have been changed.
For the first £800 per week gross income:
- one child, 12 per cent
- two children 16 per cent
- three or more children, 19 per cent.
An extra amount will be applied to any gross income that exceeds £800 per week - 9, 12 or 15 per cent - depending on the number of children involved.
Separated parents trying to reach an agreement on child support payments are being encouraged to use these formulae as a guideline.
“Where agreement is reached, this can be included in any final order in the financial aspects of the divorce. This will bind the parties for at least a year or until varied by the court,” said Ms Hamilton Cole.
Divorce mediation solicitors could play a vital role in speeding up the agreement process, saving time and reducing legal costs, she added.
Coles Miller’s family law solicitors help clients facing a range of issues involving divorce or separation along with any associated disputes involving property, finances and child custody arrangements.
The team also assists with injunctions, pre-nuptial agreements, civil partnerships and collaborative law.
Dorset-based Coles Miller has five offices in Bournemouth, Poole, Broadstone, Charminster and Wimborne.
The firm provides a complete range of services for private clients and businesses, predominantly in Dorset, but across the UK for clinical negligence and personal injury cases.
For further information about family law, please contact Poole divorce solicitor Emma Hamilton Cole, 01202 694891.